Grand Theft Auto 5’s ‘Next-Gen’ Upgrade Is The Best Version Yet

Grand Theft Auto 5 arrived this week with a new update designed to take advantage of the capabilities of the new wave of game consoles. That’s quite the thing: we’re talking about a title that first launched in 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360 before being revamped for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. With the arrival of this new premium edition, Rockstar’s mega-selling game now arrives on its third generation of gaming hardware with the promise of three quality modes, including the addition of game-accelerated ray tracing features. equipment.

We’ll cover platform comparisons in another article (the truth is, we only got the code the day before release – and that job takes time). So today we’re focusing on what the new version offers compared to existing versions of the game. If you’re coming from last-gen console experience, what kind of upgrades do you get? And if you’ve already played the massively upgradable PC version of GTA5, how well does the new version compare to the max experience? For our testing, we focused on the PlayStation 5 version of the game, finding that the new hardware offers a vastly improved user experience before you even start playing it!

I’m not just talking about loading, but also about installing. After downloading GTA5 on PS4, I discovered that an additional installation period was required, which took over an hour (!). There’s a lot less friction on PS5 – just hit play and you’re straight into the intro videos and from there into the 60fps menus. Full frame rate menus might not seem like a big deal, but they run remarkably well at 30fps on the latest generation consoles and even the PC version. Rockstar Social Club logins are one thing (can be disabled for single player), but going from menu to story mode takes about 20 seconds – much faster than the PS4, where the same process took two minutes and eight seconds on my system .

Video technical review from Digital Foundry for the new “next-gen” upgrade for Grand Theft Auto 5, tested here on PlayStation 5.

Three rendering modes are offered: fidelity in 4K30, performance in 1440p60 and RT performance also in 1440p60. These higher frame rate modes are a dramatic improvement over the game’s last-gen renders, capped at 30fps instead. Obviously there’s more visual feedback, but the improved frame rate also alleviates a lingering issue with GTA5 – very high input lag. Going back to gaming today, it’s unacceptably high and just about bearable in 60fps modes.

Not only that, but compared to the PC version, Rockstar has improved the implementation to 60 fps. While 60fps was easily achievable on PC, there were issues: character animation was not running at 60fps, even when rendering, while camera pans also stuttered. On newer console versions, character movement is much improved, but I still feel the camera movement in cutscenes could be better – and it still doesn’t feel like 60fps to me. So it’s an improvement, but not quite perfect: Cloth effects still work at a lower frame rate with other accessory animations. Still, it’s an improvement over the PC and a round-the-clock boost over last-gen consoles.

Added to this increased fluidity are changes in image processing. In the last-gen version, motion blur was camera-based, with a sparing use of per-object blur in first-person mode. In the new version, per-object motion blur is applied universally throughout the game. It’s subtle at 60fps and more noticeable in fidelity mode at 30fps, which looks much improved over the last-gen game running at the same frame rate.

Another aspect of this new smooth feeling is due to improvements in image quality. Back on PlayStation 4, the game ran at 1080p with a simple FXAA-like post-process anti-aliasing effect, typical for the release period, but with numerous issues with shimmering, dithering, and other stability issues. PC introduced MSAA and a time solution from Nvidia known as TXAA, while retaining FXAA if you wanted it too. You could then improve the quality of the console image on PC, but the costs of doing so in terms of rendering were significant. Newer versions introduce a temporal anti-aliasing solution more in line with current technology, similar to Red Dead Redemption 2. Flickering, dithering and noise are all significantly reduced to the point that in some respects GTA5 at 1440p on PS5 seems preferable to PC in native 4K.

So which of the three quality modes should you use? Fidelity mode is compromised due to its increased input lag – and of the two performance offerings, it’s the ray-tracing mode I’d recommend. RT is deployed here only on shadows, and specifically on shadows cast by the sun (inner shadows are standard shadow maps – albeit higher quality, with decent filtering). RT shadows dramatically reduce artifact issues, eliminate jarring cut points found in shadow cascading where a high quality shadow fades to a much lower quality at close range, and more importantly, the properties of shadows in real life are rendered more accurately. The shadows of small details are kept where they often disappear with shadow maps, the so called Peter Pan effect. This term describes how light leaks through objects when the contact area cannot be rendered correctly.

Ray-traced shadows don’t have this problem and more than that, they accurately display shadow feathering: the farther a shadow is from the object casting it, the more diffuse the effect. Interestingly, the PC version has Nvidia PCSS shadows – an attempt to simulate this effect – but it’s exactly that: an attempt. It was good for its time, but RT does the job properly. RT shadows look good, but don’t run at full resolution, which can lead to pops and flakes. Fidelity mode doesn’t eliminate these issues – rather, it makes shadows more pixel-accurate due to the higher output resolution.

So far, the new Grand Theft Auto 5 is impressing on many levels, but there are still several aspects of the presentation where I’d like to see improvements – perhaps legacy baggage from older versions of the game. It starts with the anisotropic filtering, which is very similar to the last generation console version – improved only because of the higher resolution. Then there’s the general level of detail and draw distance – at the time there was a lot of controversy that the PS4 had more weed than the Xbox One version, which the PC version did go to the next level. In its 60fps modes, the new version of GTA5 uses the same high grass density preset used by PlayStation 4 – noticeably lower than PC’s very high or ultra. This is perhaps unsurprising considering that the effect is resource-intensive.

It’s a bit short but the launch trailer of the new version of the game is not bad!

The level of geometry detail also shows no real improvement over the PlayStation 4, while PC looking into the distance shows a much richer open world. The only way to upgrade the level of detail is to use fidelity mode, reducing the frame rate to 3-30 frames per second. This pumps the grass to a higher level, but unfortunately it does not affect the remote LOD for the opaque geometry which appears to be the same. Beyond that, changes from older versions are spared – we’re talking small differences like revamped fire effects or the way depth of field no longer becomes virtually invisible at higher settings like on PC, but these are incidental details.

The PlayStation 5 is getting some DualSense controller upgrades, but I wouldn’t describe them as game-changing: driving has some tension on the triggers, and haptics is used to cause little jolts to the controller depending on driving conditions on the road, as well as other small but welcome effects. It’s really standard stuff, but it’s always nice to see these things added for those who love them.

Technically, I think the new Grand Theft Auto 5 is the preferred version of the game – a big improvement over the PS4/Xbox One era version and better in many ways than the PC game as well. This is down to things like the increased smoothness via motion blur and fixed cutscenes, as well as the inclusion of temporal anti-aliasing which cleans up a lot of the legacy image quality issues. Yes, the visual features of the PC version are missing in this new version – but more importantly, aside from the LOD distance, they tend not to be noticed in general gameplay. Ultimately, it feels like Rockstar could have pushed harder to deliver more – so don’t expect an upgrade comparable to something like Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition. In terms of ‘next-gen’ upgrades, what we’re getting here is the mandatory 60fps upgrade, a touch of RT and a handful of nice refinements.

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